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1591Re: TR on God and Religion

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  • Tom Hartnett
    Feb 7, 2007
      > The Seven Worlds of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Wagenknecht has a
      > complete chapter on his spiritual values and I found that chapter,
      > and the book itself, placed his life into a bit better perspective
      > for me.

      Is anyone familiar with Christian F. Reisner and his book,
      Roosevelt's Religion? The dedication reads, "To young men in the
      hope that they may be as wise as was Mr. Roosevelt in appreciating
      and appropriating concrete Christianity". Here are several excerpts
      from Mr. Reisner's introduction entitled, "An Explanation":

      "A recently published bibliography containing a list of over five
      hundred books and pamphlets about and by Theodore Roosevelt contains
      not a single article, pamphlet, or book about Mr. Roosevelt's
      religion. Religion was the heart of his life, the creator of his
      ideals, the sustainer of his courage, the feeder of his faith, and
      the fountain of his wisdom. Without religion the greatness of Mr.
      Roosevelt is inexplicable. He was a typical and outstanding American
      because he did have a vital religious faith and a daily practice
      consistent with it....

      "All history will show that pure religion builds the greatest
      leaders of earth. To find a truly great man is to find a man with
      faith in the Father-God and one who has consciously or unconsciously
      followed the program of Jesus....

      "Theodore Roosevelt stands out as the towering, unquestioned
      illustration of the size and kind of men pure religion builds. He
      was strongly human and yet devout, admittedly imperfect and yet
      sincerely seeking the truth, notably self-confident and yet avowedly
      a worshipful disciple of the humble Teacher of Galilee. He went away
      from earth carrying the diploma of a completed life course, and
      hence is a beckoning example to all who would think widely, contest
      successfully, serve steadily, live happily, and cross the river at
      the end triumphantly.

      "The words of many witnesses following various vocations have been
      freely and frequently quoted because the important subject of
      religion dare not be left either to an author's declarations or even
      to his interpretation of quotations. The evidence presented will be
      recognized as conclusive....

      "While Mr. Roosevelt had a profound and workable creed, he seldom
      talked about or detailed it. Yet he lived a very definite one.
      Theories interested him very little; he demanded practice. He agreed
      with James: "I will show you my faith by my works." Nevertheless, he
      emphasized the necessity of faith and worship. New York's children,
      uninstructed, might decide that trees are not necessary to furnish
      fruit; there is such an abundance in the stores. One is prone to
      conclude after reading the many high-sounding phrases divorced from
      any mention of God, about "right," "honesty," "service," "the Golden
      Rule," and "morality," that these grew in the air or were self-
      existent entitiesÂ….Every ideal with power in it or moral word which
      possesses red blood, grew on the tree called religion. Where there
      is no religion, or God, or church, there is no moral practice,
      progress, or security. Mr. Roosevelt said, "A churchless community
      is a community on the rapid downgrade." Again he said, "Every
      sensible man believes in and practices religion.

      "To take God out of consideration when viewing Mr. Roosevelt's life
      is to mislead the people and lessen the permanency of his influence.
      Without a religious training similar to that which he and his
      associates received and followed, there will be no leaders of
      caliber and strength to succeed the present-day leaders; teachers
      and parents must realize that or fail at their task. The child
      without a religious training is unfitted to meet life's problems
      successfully.

      "Religion does not consist alone of prayer, Bible reading, and
      church attendance. While necessary for ripest development, they are
      but sunshine, rain, and soil which feed the roots of faith and
      enable the character to bear fruit in words and deeds of
      righteousness. Neither does any religion require humans who profess
      it to be without flaw or periods of failure. The orchard is not dug
      up because it bears some scrubby fruit, or even if it fails to
      produce for one whole season. Americanism is often cheapened by
      hypocrites; none of us reach our highest ideals as citizens, and yet
      we do not refrain from professing to be an "American" on this
      account. It is unfair to demand that those who announce themselves
      as pupils in the school of Christ, by professing to be Christians,
      should be flawless.

      "This book will review all phases of Mr. Roosevelt's life but with
      the single purpose of exhibiting his religious traits. His ordinary
      faults will be taken for granted. No one will conclude, therefore,
      that he had no temptations or failures or lapses from a perfect
      Christian standard because they are not presented.

      "His religion is traced back to his childhood, followed in his own
      home, discovered in his ideals, teachings, and activities, and
      confidently identified in his church affiliations and advocacies.
      The material has been gathered from biographies and articles, the
      writings and addresses of Mr. Roosevelt and from interviews with
      such high authorities as...."

      The book was first published in 1922 by Abingdon Press and seems to
      be relatively comprehensive in considering the various aspects of
      Roosevelt's adherence to Christianity. The following is taken from
      the Contents page:

      President Harding's Testimony
      Leonard Wood's Testimony
      An Explanation
      I. Theodore's Childhood Home
      II. His Own an Ideal Home
      III. A Helpful Father Himself
      IV. Providentially Prepared For His Career
      V. The Essential of Success
      VI. A Humble Self-Confidence
      VII. A Courteous Christian Friend
      VIII. The Brother of His People
      IX. Public Duties Fearlessly Performed
      X. Preached and Practiced High Ideals
      XI. Was He A Christian? Others' Testimony
      XII. Was He A Christian? His Own Testimony
      XIII. A Pure and Reverent Mind
      XIV. Drinking and Prohibition
      XV. His Opinion of The Bible
      XVI. Did He Join the Church?
      XVII. Church Attendance and Work
      Books Used As References
      Index

      If you're interested in learning more about Roosevelt's Christian
      faith and practice, I believe this book would be worth reading, if
      you can find it.

      Tom Hartnett
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